What really is yoga?

If your source of knowledge of yoga comes from pop-culture your understanding might be limited to thinking of yoga as a stretching exercise meant to make you healthier and flexible. Yoga is that and much much more. In this article, we are going to delve into various aspects of yoga, including its origin, purpose, methods, and how it can be integrated with modern lifestyle.


The Origin Story of Yoga


The word Yoga means “to join” or “to yoke”, it is described as a state in which there is complete harmony between mind and body, and harmony between man and nature, and a feeling many describe as “oneness”.


The traditional Yoga called “Raja Yoga” originated thousands of years ago in India, designed by the ancient yogis (saints) as a method or path to moksha (or spiritual liberation).


To reach this aim or state of Yoga they followed an eight-step process called Ashtanga Yoga. The first two steps of these eight steps are Yama (ethical living) and Niyama (routine or discipline).


The next two steps are Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises), they were meant to keep the yogi’s body healthy and strong so that his body can be prepared for long hours of meditation and other practices leading to his goal of liberation.


After that comes Pratyahara (withdrawing from distractions), Dharna (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and finally moksha (liberation).




These steps were documented by the sage Patanjali in around 500 BCE. Thousands of years later during the 15th century a new system of Yoga called “Hatha Yoga” started to develop in India which deviated from the original aim of spiritual liberation and focused more on the physical and mental strength-building exercises and postures.


In the 1900s’ Hatha Yoga and various meditation techniques like transcendental meditation started to become popular in America and the rest of the West, which we now simply call “Yoga”.


Yoga in Modern Lifestyle


In ancient times yoga used to be a full-time job, it was the main focus of the yogi's life. In modern times people have become very busy and most of us don't have time to think about spiritual liberation. But with this busy lifestyle comes the stress, health problems, and anxiety that make us miserable.


And because of all these problems, people found yoga very appealing, as it provides us with methods to solve those problems such as:

  1. Asanas have proven to keep your body healthy and strong and slow down the ageing process.

  2. Yoga has also helped people in curing many serious medical conditions

  3. Meditation practices make you calm, relieve stress, and increase your concentration abilities.

  4. Pranayama helps to improve lung function, blood pressure, and brain function.

We will discuss in detail the many scientific proofs and neurological, psychological, and hormonal benefits of Yoga in another article.


Many people still use Yoga as a way to have experiences of higher states of consciousness, but most people have reduced it to a psycho-physical exercise to make their bodies and minds more efficient, which is completely fine.


Practical Yoga


As we have seen that Asanas (the physical exercises) and Dhyana (meditation) are only parts of the large methodology of Yoga. But you don’t need to understand all aspects of the traditional Yoga to practice the yoga which is taught in most yoga classes today, just these three:

  1. Asanas: They are postures or poses. Different poses have different functions or benefits. Some poses are easy to practice and are suitable for beginners while others can only be done by an expert.

  2. Pranayama: Breathing exercises.

  3. Dhyana: Mediation practices such as breathing mediation, mantra meditation, etc.

It’s best to practice yoga and mediation in the morning and evening although mediation can be practiced anytime during the day.


Conclusion


Now that you know the purpose of yoga you can go deeper into the methods of performing Asanas and Pranayamas which will also discuss in this blog.


If you are skeptical about yoga we do not need to argue about the pros and cons, why not test it yourself! Practicing 20 minutes of yoga and meditation in the morning can do wonders for mental and physical well being.

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